Pull up alternatives is a strength excercise for the upper body. Put differently, it is a closed chain movement whereby the body the whole body is suspended by the hands while it pulls up. During pull up excercises, the elbows flex and the shoulders adduct and extend in order to bring the elbows to the torso. As an excercise, pull ups uses the various muscles of the upper body which includes the biceps brachii as well as the latissimus dorsi.

In the earliest decades, pull ups was also known as open-chain pulling excercises which is usually done with a barbell. The open-chain pulling excercises are now referred to as the bent-over row as well as upright row in the early 1950s and 1970s respectively.

In the present day, most people tend to mistake pull-ups for chin-up. There is however a difference between the two as pull-ups includes both the overhand and underhand grips.

Different types of pull ups can be named beyond their grip. Other ways by which they are named can be based on how high the body rises during the exercise. Another unique way by which it can be named is by naming it after the body part that comes in contact with or passes over the top of the bar. Let’s take for instance the sternum-up or chest up exercises. These exercises indicates that the sternum or the chest meets the bar which therefore requires extra scapular depression and adduction.

Pull ups alternatives are used in diverse ways. The most common way is to measure the strength of the upper body by pulling muscles. They can as well be used as part of the physical fitness test although most people prefer push-ups.

Pull up Alternatives

1. Back bridge push-up

Back bridge push up is considered the number one pull up alternative. Back bridge push-up is an extremely hard body weight exercise that places a sizeable amount of pressure on your shoulders. This is an essential exercise for workout routines because it helps to develop your ability to extend up, that is knocking your opponent off you. It is a type of exercise that is very good for wrestlers or mixed martial artists.

How to do a bridge push-up

The most appropriate method of performing a bridge push-up is described below

 First, lie face up on the ground then bring your feet in very close to your butt.

Secondly, place your two hands by your head with your fingers pointed down to your toes.

Thirdly, lift your body up by using your legs and arms. Be sure to extend up as far as you can. Carefully lower yourself down just a few inches and then extend up again.

Repeat this process.

The bridge push-up is a unique type of exercise that works with your whole body but places more emphasis on your shoulder muscles, back extensors as well as your glutes.

Note the following:

(i) Target repetitions for muscle growth is 6-8

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(ii) Target repetitions for muscle tone or endurance is 8-12

Why is bridge push-up a better alternative

One of the reasons why bridge push-up is a better alternative to pull up is because your body is in a much more difficult position to maintain which is not absolutely the normal workout position. So therefore, it tends to work so well.

Important things to note while carrying out the bridge push-up

1. You must be very careful not to injure your shoulders as well as your wrists.

2. Incase you have any injury on either of those areas (that is your shoulders and wrists) it is better not to do the exercise.

3. You are to breathe in as you lower your body down a few inches then breath out as you press up toward the ceiling.

2. Dumbbell rows

Dumbbell rows is yet another pull up alternative. When you want to build a stronger back there’s no shortage of the different types you can do. Dumbbell rows is the most preferable. Most people are more familiar with the bent-over barbell row due to the massive back-boosting benefits it gives. It should however be noted that the one-arm dumbbell is much more better for your back exercise then the bent-over barbell row. The reason is that using one arm at a time gives you the chance to focus your efforts on the lats, traps as well as the other back muscles which are targeted by the exercise. Not only that, using dumbbell also prevents you from relying fully on one side of your body to do most of the work. It can also highlight any imbalance in your strength that you need to focus on. This exercise also has a great range of motion than most back exercises this is because you can row the weight much more higher than other back exercises including barbell row.

How to do a one arm dumbbell row

When doing a one-arm dumbbell row, you will be needing a sturdy thigh high platform or a bench to lean on when you are performing the exercise. Be sure to have that in place first then you can now place a dumbbell on the ground to one side of the bench.

Secondly, put your left leg on the bench and then grab the far side with your left hand, then bend over so that your upper body is parallel with the ground.

Thirdly, reach down and pick up the dumbbell in your right hand with a neutral grip (that is your palm facing you), then hold it with your arm extended, keeping your back straight.

Once that is done, bring the dumbbell up to your chest. Concentrate on lifting it with your back and shoulder muscles rather than your arms. Be sure to keep your chest still as you lift. Squeeze your shoulder and back muscles at the top of the movement. Carefully lower the dumbbell  until your arm is fully extended again. Do it slowly. Make sure to put all your reps on one arm before switching to the other side.

Dumbbell Row Variations

There are diverse ways of performing dumbbell row exercise. These include:

1. Symmetrical stance one-arm dumbbell row

2. Gym ball one-arm dumbbell row

3. Dumbbell incline row

Symmetrical stance one-arm dumbbell row

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The symmetrical stance one-arm dumbbell row is done when you are comfortable with the standard one-arm dumbbell row. The exercise is done by standing square on yo the bench. Rather than supporting yourself with your hand and leg on the bench, you are only allowed to place one hand on it while you use the other to row. This makes the challenge a lot more difficult because it requires you to work more harder against the weight in order to hold your torso in place while you row up and down. Stand firm with your feet shoulder width apart and hinge at the hips on order to lean over the bench on one hand. Push your butt back and keep your back straight then row the weight up. Make sure that only one of your arm moves during this exercise and not your torso.

2. Gym ball one-arm dumbbell row

The gym ball one-arm dumbbell row is the second way of doing the dumbbell row excercise. This exercise can be done by switching out the bench for an unstable inflatable ball is surefire way in order to increase the work your core has to do to keep you still while you perform your rows. This makes the exercise a better all-round workout even if you might not be able to lift as much weight as when you are leaning on a stable surface.

3. Dumbbell incline row

The dumbbell incline row is the third way of performing the dumbbell row excercise. Below are the instructions on how to do the dumbbell incline row exercise:

1. First, you need to set a bench up at a 45° incline and lie chest-down on it.

2. Gasp a dumbbell on both hands and row them up to your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. Make sure you do not let your chest come off the bench at any point while doing the exercise. Lying on a bench is the best way to prevent you from rounding your back while performing the movement.

3. The renegade row

The renegade row otherwise known as the plank row is another pull up alternative. It is a type of exercise that is designed to target the upper back and the core. It is a unique type of exercise because it targets both groups of muscles that are hit during the dumbbell row. It is also a unique type of exercise because it helps to develop anti-rational core strength which in turn helps with balance as well as coordination and fall prevention.

The renegade row is a type of exercise that is accessible for a lot of people as it requires a level of core strength to get it done in the right form. In this type of exercise, you will have to be up to the task of holding a plank for the whole duration of the exercise while alternating a dumbbell row with the other arm. This simply means that you are expected to hold your body in a plank position supported by only one arm at a time. If you are able to hold a plank with good posture for a minimum of one minute, then you can easily attempt the renegade row.

How to do the renegade row

Below are the step by step instructions on how to do the renegade row

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1. To the the renegade row, you need enough space to hold a plank and a set of dumbbells.

2. Place the dumbbells on the ground. Make sure it is well positioned so that when you set up in a plank position, the dumbbells are roughly shoulder-distance apart and the handles of the dumbbells are parallel to one another.

3. Start by putting your hands and knees in a tabletop-like position, gripping one dumbbell with each hand. Make sure that your hands are aligned beneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips.

4. Step your feet behind you in order to enter a full plank position, your body should be supported by your hands and the balls of your feet. At this point, make sure that your body is forming a straight line from your heels to your head with your core engaged and tight. Position your feet so that they are roughly hip-distance apart so as to offer more balance and support to the exercise.

5. Inhale deeply and shift your weight slightly to your left side so that more of your weight is supported by your left palm. Make sure that your body doesn’t twist. Also make sure both hips and shoulders remain square to the ground.

6. Squeeze your right shoulder blade toward your spine and then draw the dumbbell held in your right hand closely towards your chest (bend your elbow as you draw the dumbbell toward your chest). Exhale as you lift the dumbbell. Check your positioning. Your hips and shoulders should still be squared to the ground. The dumbbell should be pulled all the way to your right chest or shoulder  and your right elbow should be pointing up and toward the back of the room.

7. Lower the dumbbell slowly to the floor then return to the starting position.

8. Shift your weight to your right side and repeat the exercise but this time, draw the left dumbbell to your left chest or shoulder.

9. Keep doing the exercise as much as you want. You can quit the exercise by lowering your knees back to the floor before releasing the dumbbells and sitting up.

4. Single arm pulldown

This is another unique pull up alternative.

How to do single arm pulldown

1. First attach a D-handle and carefully position yourself as you would for a regular lat pulldown.

2. Reach up and grasp the handle with a neutral grip (make sure your palms are facing in), and your torso fully erect, your arm fully extended and chest out.

Note that may need to stand up first to pull the handle to you, then sit down on the seat.

3. With your working arm fully extended carefully lean back 10–15 degrees and look straight forward.

4. Drop your shoulder by depressing your clavicles. Be sure to avoid pinching or shrugging your neck.

5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, take a deep breath and pull the handle to your upper chest. Be sure to focus on the lats and pull your elbow back and down.

6. Slowly release the bar back to the beginning.

Other pull up alternatives includes:

-Low bar pull

-Door band pull down

-Kneeling lat band pull down.


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